...Those Marvelous Tin Fish: The Great Torpedo Scandal Avoided

In the case of USS Tennessee, she was taken in hand TWICE. First time, she was made "operational" so she could defend against a possible Japanese attack on the US west coast. Her AAA and her artillery was upgraded to the latest marks available, her incomplete radar suite was fixed, the pass through leak points and topside damage repaired and her superstructure cut down (cage masts removed for example). She was not battle worthy as of March 1942, but could be "fightable" if needed. It was necessary to take that de-annealed rear hull of the old ship and replate it completely.

I mean, yeah, I know about the second visit to the yard. But clearly, that was a modernization, not just a more through repair job. Tennessee took no torpedo hits, after all. As regards "battle worthy," perhaps this is a semantic point; but the Navy sent her out on patrol in February-March and it wasn't just a training patrol: they thought she could give battle. Again, there wasn't a blazing rush to get her (or Maryland) out, in that neither ship was in danger of sinking.

Peacetime thinking or rather more specifically "Victorian Era Navy thinking". Look good is more important than shoot good.

Well, let's be fair here: It wasn't THAT bad. For all of its mindset and its flaws, the USN on December 6, 1941 was much more capable of giving (efficient) battle than the Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet of the 1880's was. Because even during the war, ship's inspections were held.

Back to Stark:

Correct information. British torps were dropped at the 30 meter line, so goddamn Stark, too, because he KNEW it and did not order Kimmel to deploy the nets as he should have.

I've never been impressed by Stark, and I am far from the only one. Replacing him with King was a giant step forward.

Stark seems to have been genuinely concerned at first when the Taranto reports came in. He queried Richardson, who initially responded as if Stark was asking him about *submarine* torpdo attacks. Richardson was surely right that a sub attack within the harbor was going to be hugely difficult. The fact that it did not even seem to occur to Richardson to address an *aerial* torpedo attack shows that deep, down, he just did not think it was possible. This, if nothing else, really puts to bed the lingering notion that if FDR had kept Richardson in place, Pearl Harbor would have turned out differently. Roosevelt treated Richardson unjustly, no question (he was certainly right on the narrow point he got fired for making, that Pearl was greatly inferior to San Diego as a home port for PACFLT), but FDR did him an enormous favor by not having him in charge of the Pacific Fleet on December 7, 1941.

But eventually, Richardson and other skeptics seem to have won Stark over. Intellectually, they might admit that shallow torpedo atack was POSSIBLE, but not at Pearl Harbor, and not by the Japanese, who might be good fighters but just not as clever or technically advanced as the Brits or the Germans.
 
Ah fair enough. When I see the words killed as related to ships I usually conflate that with sunk which confused me since I know that only 3 Counties where lost and Kent wasn't one of them. Speaking of all 3 lost Counties each and every one of them was because an Admiral screwed up. The Canberra probably could have salvaged if Turner hadn't had her scuttled a considerable time period before he left the area (and hadn't screwed up the lead up to what became Savo Island, albeit the loss there definitely helped out the USN in the long run due to all the lessons learned) and the Cornwall and Dorsetshire(and the Hermes as well) should have been withdrawn from the area the second Somerville had confirmation the Kido Butai was in the area due to them needing yard work to their engines which made them slow

1. I think after our discussions in this thread, that we agree Richmond Kelly Turner should have been in the same prison block with Stark, Leahy, Tower, Mitscher, Pownall and the Atomic Playboy?
2. Two camps on Somerville:
a. He was a good admiral who was unlucky.
b. Admirals make their own luck, so Somerville was awful.^1

^1 My opinion? If your PBY's, including the one that died to warned you, tell you Kido Butai is at launch position southeast of Sri Lanka as predicted, but three days earlier than you estimated, then forget about the Madagascar operation bullshit and sortie Hermes around Sri-Lanka to the north, pass her through the straits and tell her to run for her life. Fallback on Aden. Ditto; tell Dorsetshire and Cornwall to run west for ADEN, too.

As for your own fleet, maneuver to steer clear of Nagumo. He's got to return to Singapore eventually as he runs out of fuel. Stay alive to pick up the pieces after the incompetent RAF is defeated at Colombo. One knows it is a raid by 1 April 1942 and not an invasion based on MAGIC intercepted Japanese radio message traffic. Act accordingly. Preserve the fleet.

Somerville was instead "aggressive" because of his earlier Teleuda cautious actions which drew criticisms (Mainly leveled by Churchill who called him, gutless.) and he got burned badly. Does that make him a bad admiral? Ordinarily I would suggest "unlucky", but he had the information he needed to make a correct "fleet in being" decision which the circumstances required. He made a poor decision to attack based on his emotion and ego: not the reasoned facts available as Spruance or Fletcher would do later under similar conditions. Churchill had him pegged rightly as a man of uncertain emotional judgement.

Form your own opinion. I have mine which is that he was a b-type admiral.
 
Last edited:
Some thing I'll note about Turner was that he did tend to learn from mistakes which did make him one of the better Admirals to lead Amphibious Assaults by the later parts of the war
 
^1 My opinion? If your PBY's, including the one that died to warned you, tell you Kido Butai is at launch position southeast of Sri Lanka as predicted, but three days earlier than you estimated,

A man worth remembering. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Birchall

1605465633342.png
 
'Fraid not. Mind spoiling it for me?
It was published in S.M. Stirling's collection Alternate Generals.

The premise is that Billy Mitchell lives on, and stays in the Army Air Forces, and ends up stationed in Hawaii by 1941, obsessed with the idea that the Japanese plan to launch an air attack on the Pacific Fleet . . .

Anyway, Mitchell detects Nagumo's fleet as it approaches Oahu, and throws every plane he has on Oahu at it, smashing the Kido Butai badly, sinking 4 of the 6 carriers, but dying in the battle. Nagumo is forced to retreat, his mission a disastrous failure. But the last page gives a flavor of the less favorable effects it would have on the war for the U.S.:

Billy Mitchell's Overt Act last page.png


I think I could say these effects are not implausible; though maybe the way in which Mitchell gets to that point is more questionable.
 
Honestly Kimmel seems like the kind of Admiral you'd want as one of Nimitz's subordinates and not as CINCPAC replacing say Ghormley in the South Pacific so Ghormley could have stayed in Hawaii or on the West Coast getting much needed medical treatment and doing staff work. Basically we'd remember the man far far better had he not been made CINCPAC and had instead been a vice or rear Admiral when the war started
 
Last edited:
Honestly Kimmel seems like the kind of Admiral you'd want as one of Nimitz's subordinates and not as CINCPAC replacing say Ghormley in the South Pacific so Ghormley could have stayed in Hawaii or on the West Coast getting medical treatment and doing staff work.
I might agree with that, except that Kimmel seems to have Joe Hooker fail modes. He was the actual monkey in the barrel and he failed the Niagara Falls test. IOW, when the crisis hit him like that cannon ball hit Joe Hooker at Chancellorsville, he lost control of the situation. Good up to the moment the first bombs fell, then Kimmel fell apart.
 
Last edited:
If Billy Mitchell had tried that, he'd have lost miserably. His planes would have been horribly outclassed by the Japanese ones, he would have tried level bombing and not hit a single Japanese ship with those planes. And the pilots would have been lost at sea, instead of bailing out over land. It would have been a total disaster.
 
If Billy Mitchell had tried that, he'd have lost miserably. His planes would have been horribly outclassed by the Japanese ones, he would have tried level bombing and not hit a single Japanese ship with those planes. And the pilots would have been lost at sea, instead of bailing out over land. It would have been a total disaster.


George Kenney - Wikipedia

"Thou shalt assign the right man to the right job."

Dennis Mahan.
 
I might agree with that, except that Kimmel seems to have Joe Hooker fail modes. He was the actual monkey in the barrel and he failed the Niagara Falls test. IOW, when the crisis hit him like that cannon ball hit Joe Hooker at Chancellorsville, he lost control of the situation. Good up to the moment the first bombs fell, then Kimmel fell apart.
Which to be fair is something you can't test until you have a war on. Plus Hooker was a decent Corps commander both pre and post Chancellorsville and unlike Kimmel was given a second chance to prove himself although to be fair part of the reason why Kimmel never got a second chance was the fact that he was a full Admiral and thus there were no positions which he could have realistically been assigned to that would have enabled him to potentially redeem himself available
 
Last edited:
Which to be fair is something you can't test until you have a war on.

Yeah. If you are going to flunk like Hooker, you at least need to be given the same test as Hooker. A surprise peacetime attack is a different sort of test - one which we might say Kimmel flunked - but it's not the same kind of test as leading a major military force into battle in wartime.
 
Mental shock is difficult to simulate. But it has to be done in a profession (seamanship at war) where stress is a maximized and normal condition. The Fleet Problems were a stab at that simulation in addition to working out theory and practice of naval warfare. Despite Kimmel, the USN did it well. Even Halsey and Ghormley held up long enough and considering how much stress they were put under before Halsey made his series of Typhoon blunders and Ghormley's teeth did him in, that is a credit.

Pye and Kimmel? Eh.
 
If Billy Mitchell had tried that, he'd have lost miserably. His planes would have been horribly outclassed by the Japanese ones, he would have tried level bombing and not hit a single Japanese ship with those planes. And the pilots would have been lost at sea, instead of bailing out over land. It would have been a total disaster.

I tend to agree, though I suppose the real advantage of Mitchell attackng would be that the attack on the fleet and the base would have been averted - Nagumo might take some satisfaction at mauling the USAAF, but he would be fearful that U.S. carriers were alerted and might be near, their position unknown to Nagumo. If I recall correctly his orders allowed for him to fight through opposition to reach the harbor, but this would be a worse scenario.

OTOH, we have to bar in mind what Nimitz once said, in 1964: An alerted U.S. battlefleet would be sortied out to sea, and hat would raise the risk of being detected by Nagumo's during the air battles with Mitchell. And having those ships sunk at sea would be far worse, since neither they nor their crews could be recovered.
 
Pye and Kimmel? Eh.

Well, you can't convince me that Elliot Richardson would have done any better.

In fact, of all of Kimmel's predecessors, the only one who might have was . . . perhaps Bloch. Possibly. Only because we know Bloch submitted a report critical of Pearl Harbor defenses to Stark in early 1941. Kaibfus was fairly contemptuous of the offensive potential of carrier-based air power.

But one other thing. While Kimmel has to shoulder some of the blame, we should not forget that the primary responsibility for the defense of Pearl Harbor (and Oahu generally) was the Army. The failure to send out adequate air patrols, the negligent use of radar - that was all on General Short.
 
Last edited:
would raise the risk of being detected by Nagumo's during the air battles with Mitchell. And having those ships sunk at sea would be far worse, since neither they nor their crews could be recovered.
Sinking Battleships is much harder at sea.
Looks at the hit ratio of the torpedo planes at Pearl Harbor: sitting at anchor, and little AA since they attacked first.

Of the 40 Kates, got 17 hits on the targeted BBs, but two more when the missed attacks on battleships hit the Cruisers Raleigh and Helena

So against moving ships that are firing back?

Val dive bombers 550 pounders were not able to do more than superficial damage to the Standards.
 
<HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse have entered the chat>
To be fair they died to repeated air attacks that expended a huge amount of torpedoes. I don't think the Kido Butai actually would have had enough torpedoes in their magazines to do the job against the Pacific Fleet's battleline. Mind you I don't think the results would have been pretty for the USN
 
Top